More power, better restrooms and new visitor centers – Oregon parks to get major upgrades

With $50 million from state bonds, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department tackles upgrades next spring

By: - November 22, 2021 6:15 am
Fort Stevens State Park

A guardhouse built at Fort Stevens in 1911 will get some updating as part of work in 2022 at Fort Stevens State Park. (Oregon Parks and Recreation Department)

The electrical system at Beverly Beach State Park on the Oregon coast hasn’t kept pace with the ever-growing size of RVs pulling into the campground.

When a circuit blows, repairs aren’t easy.

“You can’t just go fix one site,” said Jered Mangini, park manager. “You have to turn off power for from six to 10 sites, part of a loop. You have to go around and give people notice. One repair can take half a day.”
Now, a major fix is coming for one of the most popular campgrounds run by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

Beverly Beach, nestled along Spencer Creek north of Newport, is one of seven state parks to get multi-million dollar upgrades next year. The Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission last week voted to go ahead with $50 million in park work over the next two year that will improve some of the state’s most iconic parks.

“This has been a huge blessing,” Mangini said after the vote.

The coastal park with 267 campsites and 21 yurts likely will need to close down temporarily to allow a complete upgrading of the electrical system.

Mangini said the result will be more robust electrical service at the campsites to handle the larger RVs that require more power. He said more guests are also showing up with electric vehicles.

That has strained the electrical system.

“We’re blowing breakers left and right.” Mangini said. “The last thing you want to tell someone is you can’t run your toaster and your microwave and your heater all at the same time.”

As part of the project, overhead power lines will be put underground, sparing the local utility the chore of going to the park for repairs after a storm pushes trees over.

The park also will be able to operate a larger laundry to service cleaning crews who tend to the yurts and other campground buildings and for campground hosts.

“We could do two loads of laundry at once,” Mangini said.

He said his crew won’t spend as much time doing repairs.

“That translates into a lot more positive interactions with customers,” said Mangini.

He joined the Parks Department in 2006 as a ranger after working for years in construction. He met his wife at the park and worked his way through the ranks to become manager at Beverly Beach in 2017.

“There’s not a chance to get bored,” he said. “I’m hooked.”

Other parks will get even more substantial makeovers.

Up the coast from Beverly Beach, Fort Stevens State Park will get up to $1l million in improvements. Four loops in the campground will get modernized utilities, a restroom dating to 1955 will be replaced and others will be improved.

The historic guard house, built in 1911 as part of a military complex, will get a new roof, and windows and doors will replaced.

In John Day, the state will buy city parkland adjacent to the Kam Wah Chung Museum so it can build an interpretive center and expand its historical collection. Now, the state parks crew for the Chinese history site works out of a portion of a nearby former middle school.

Other park projects announced last week:

  • Silver Falls State Park, east of Salem – A North Gateway Visitor Center, a campground and a new North Canyon trailhead and parking lot and utility improvements.
  • Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint, west of the Vista House on the historic Columbia Gorge Highway – A new restroom and expanded parking to hold 100 vehicles.
  • Smith Rock State Park, east of Terrebone in central Oregon – A new visitor center and restroom and improved parking and traffic flow.

In 2023, the Parks and Recreation Department plans major improvements at Cape Lookout State Park, south of Tillamook; Nehalem Bay State Park, north of Tillamook; and Milo McIver State Park, northwest of Estacada.

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Les Zaitz
Les Zaitz

Les Zaitz is a veteran editor and investigative reporter, serving Oregon for more than 45 years. He reported for The Oregonian for 25 years and owns community newspapers and a digital news service. He is a national SPJ fellow, two-time Pulitzer finalist, including for a lengthy investigation of Mexican drug cartels in Oregon and five-time winner of Oregon’s top investigative reporting award. He has investigated corrupt state legislators, phony charities, and an international cult that moved to Oregon, and the biggest bank failure in Oregon history. He also has been active in reforming the state’s public records law and was appointed by the governor to the Oregon Public Records Advisory Council. In his spare time, he operates a ranch nestled in a national forest, feeding horses and assorted animals.

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